Security

Afghan forces, Taliban announce matching Eid ceasefires as violence flares

By Pakistan Forward and AFP

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Relatives May 9 on the outskirts of Kabul dig graves for girls killed in the May 8 bombing of a girls' school in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

KABUL -- President Ashraf Ghani ordered Afghan forces Monday (May 10) to match a three-day Taliban ceasefire during this week's Eid ul Fitr holidays, the presidential palace said.

Ghani told Afghan security forces to "observe the ceasefire" to the third day of Eid announced earlier Monday by the Taliban.

He also urged the insurgents to announce a permanent truce to end the war.

"The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Commander in Chief of the armed forces have instructed the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces to observe the ceasefire," the palace said in a statement.

"Resorting to violence, killing civilians, destroying infrastructure and public places not only on Eid days but on any day have no justification," it said.

"Now that international forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan and the religious authorities and scholars of the Islamic world consider the war in Afghanistan contrary to religious guidelines, the Taliban have no legitimate reason to continue killing the Afghan people," it added.

"The Taliban must have learned from their operations in recent weeks that their calculation of victory on the battlefield against the heroic Afghan security and defence forces was a mistake," the statement said.

Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, called on the Taliban to engage in talks with the Afghan government and to announce a permanent ceasefire.

"The Taliban movement has announced a 3-day ceasefire during Eid-ul-Fitr. In our view, the solution to today's crisis in the country lies in engaging in accelerated talks, and announcing a permanent ceasefire and end [sic] the war," Abdullah tweeted Monday.

"In the past the GoIRA [Afghan government] has declared unilateral ceasefires during Eid & special occasions. Temporary ceasefires on such occasions provides [sic] short-term opportunities for our people but are not seen as a durable solution for our country," he said.

Afghanistan's crisis does not have a military solution, and experiences from the past four decades have shown that "a recipe for terror and killing is not only a solution but has actually deepened the crisis," he noted.

"Therefore, miscalculations need to be avoided by groups think that they can achieve their goals through increased use of terror and killing," he said, referring to the Taliban.

"I take this opportunity once again and call on the Taliban movement to restart talks, agree to a permanent ceasefire, end the war and bloodshed and seek a comprehensive, just and dignified settlement for all sides," Abdullah said.

"We hope that Afghans will be able to enjoy a few days of peace to celebrate Eid without targeted assassinations and bombings, but a few days is not enough," said US Charge d'Affaires Ross Wilson on Twitter on Monday.

"Afghans deserve a comprehensive #ceasefire as well as a just & durable peace," he said.

Taliban violence

The ceasefires come after brutal attacks on civilians in recent days.

A roadside bomb struck a bus in Zabul province overnight killing at least 11 people just hours before the Taliban's announcement of ceasefire, the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MOI) said Monday.

The attack left another 28 people wounded, MOI spokesman Tariq Arian told reporters.

The incident took place in the Muskan Camp area of Shahr-e-Safa district Sunday evening, TOLOnews reported, citing a MOI statement on Monday.

"The bomb was placed by the Taliban," said the statement.

Meanwhile, a car bomb detonated in front of the Sayed Al-Shuhada girls' school in Kabul on Saturday, and when the students rushed out in panic, two more devices exploded.

The blasts, which took place as residents were shopping ahead of Eid ul Fitr, killed more than 50 people, mostly female students, and wounded more than 100 in Dasht-e-Barchi, a west Kabul suburb populated mostly by Hazara Shia.

On Sunday, relatives buried the dead at a hilltop site known as "Martyrs Cemetery", where victims of attacks on the Hazara community are laid to rest.

Afghan officials including Ghani blamed the Taliban.

"This savage group does not have the power to confront security forces on the battlefield and instead targets with brutality and barbarism public facilities and the girls' school," Ghani said in a statement after the blasts.

The Taliban denied involvement and insist they have not carried out attacks in Kabul since February 2020, when they signed a deal with Washington that paved the way for peace talks and for withdrawal of the remaining US troops.

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